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People v. Smith.

2022 CO 38. No. 22SA58. Interlocutory Appeal—Suppression of Evidence—Fourth Amendment—Warrantless Search of an Automobile—Probable Cause—Law Enforcement Hunches—Piling Hunch upon Hunch—Totality of the Circumstances—Consideration of Both Facts Supporting Probable Cause and Those Militating Against It.

June 27, 2022

In this interlocutory appeal brought by the prosecution, the Supreme Court considered whether the district court erred in granting defendant’s motion to suppress the illegal narcotics recovered during a search of the car in which he was a passenger. The prosecution contended that the district court mistakenly found that law enforcement lacked probable cause to conduct the search.

Probable cause is subject to a reasonableness standard and cannot be established by piling hunch upon hunch. Nor is it proper to disregard facts that militate against a finding of probable cause. Looking at the facts of this case in their totality (i.e., considering not only those supporting probable cause but also those cutting against it) leads to the conclusion that law enforcement lacked probable cause to conduct the challenged search. Therefore, the search violated defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The Court affirmed the suppression order.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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